Review of 'The Help'

the_help.jpg Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan, an aspiring writer living in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi sees the hypocrisy of her contemporaries with their sheltered lives and their black “help” as an opportunity to further her career (so far limited to writing a self-help column for a local newspaper) by telling their story. In doing so she comes to understand these people that have been around her and her community over many decades. It is not without risk that Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson warily tell their story to Skeeter in their own homes (the first time a white person has ever visited their homes…). The repercussions and implications are massive and could be fatal…The help is to be seen but not heard.

Hilly Holbrook is a manipulative, spoiled, wealthy, and prejudiced wife who sees Skeeter's enlightenment as a risk to her comfortable lifestyle and society. Hilly is determined that Skeeter will not be successful and works hard to expose her. Contrasted with Hilly, Celia Foote is an innocent, simple wife ostrasized by her community living on the outskirts of town that is unburdened by the rules that others follow who takes on Minny as a maid to help while Celia's husband is away during the day. Celia has other more serious physical problems with her repeated problems bearing children. Skeeter's family is not without it's problems as well as the secret reason why her maid disappeared is revealed.

These are all flawed characters which gives the story a wonderful two-sides to it. It could very easily have been a “aren't these people all prejudice and bad” movie but this is simply not the case here (with the possible exception of Hilly). We learn of the good and bad of both sides. The fact that the maids and servants actually do love their families. There are a lot of very tender moments here that will bring all but the hardest of hearts to tears when watching. There are other moments when most will also want to turn away from the horror that is occurring on the screen (often these moments are fairly easy to spot and, mercifully, the camera often moves away and leaves it to our imagination).

Wonderfully sensitive and original movie. Well worth a watch.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2011-11-24

Directed by: Tate Taylor

Studio: Dreamworks

Year: 2011

Length: 137 minutes

Genre: Melodrama